News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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March 27, 2014

SOFTBALL PREVIEW: Big Four teams looking to build off strong 2013 seasons

TERRE HAUTE — Although any of the four would have liked more postseason success, the spring of 2013 was a good one for the Big Four high school softball teams. That’s good news.

Even better news for the three Vigo County teams is that very few seniors who contributed to that success are missing, and hopes are even higher this year.

The four teams combined to win 65 percent of their games, each of them beating at least one of the other three. Terre Haute North finished 19-4, Northview 16-9-1, Terre Haute South 16-10-1 and West Vigo 15-12.

Three of the four shared conference championships, with South tying for first in the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference race — the Braves’ win over North dropped the Patriots to third — and West Vigo and Northview sharing the Western Indiana Conference championship with Brown County. Both North and South play full MIC schedules again this spring, planning to make their exits from the conference as winners.

Northview, the most senior-laden group among the four last year, reached the championship game of the Class 4A Martinsville Sectional before losing to defending state champion Plainfield. Northview had beaten South in a semifinal game, with North losing a first-round game to Mooresville.

Brown County repeated a regular-season win over West Vigo in the semifinals of the Class 3A Edgewood Sectional, with South Vermillion eventually winning that tournament. So even though Northview is now a 3A school, its tournament path won’t be easy this year, and its departure from Class 4A adds Avon and Brownsburg to the mix for North and South.

“We had, if not the toughest, probably the second-toughest sectional in 4A,” coach Dwayne Stout of South said recently, “and now it probably is the toughest. Avon and Brownsburg are really good.”

A lot of Wabash Valley teams expect to be really good this spring too, including the Big Four.

• Northview — Kathy Vossmer, the Knights’ pitching coach last year, is now the head coach following the spring resignation of Bethany Jones. Six seniors — including pitcher/slugger Taylor Carter, the Wabash Valley Player of the Year now at East Tennessee State — are also missing, although Hope Torbert is back as a volunteer assistant coach.

Returning senior starters who are proving to be team leaders are center fielder Lindsey Potter and shortstop Shelby Dupin, Vossmer said, with senior Jensen Swaim stepping into the main pitching spot and juniors Maddie Nevins and Tori Tilley returning at third base and second base.

Senior Karlie Atkinson could step in as catcher or first baseman, while two other returnees — junior Whitney Halfhill and sophomore Zoe Orman — are recovering from knee surgery and their participation might be delayed.

Newcomers have been impressive, however, Vossmer said, led by a quartet of freshmen — catcher/hitter Stacy Payton, pitcher/infielder Emily McWilliams and outfielders Gwendylan Reynolds and Lindsay Clark — and junior outfielder Deaven McCrocklin.

“It’s a new season. New players, new coaches,” Vossmer said. “It will be a building year and a learning year.”

Not necessarily an unsuccessful year, however. “I expect a lot of effort, hard work, heart and hustle,” Vossmer said, “and if we put those things together, we’ll have a winning season.”

Northview opens at home April 8 against Martinsville.

• Terre Haute North — Coach Jack Kirchner’s Patriots graduated four seniors, including University of Southern Indiana pitcher/outfielder Alisha Ludwig. They expect to have veterans in every position but two when they open April 5 in a MIC game against Center Grove.

Freshman Ryleigh Scott will take over a shortstop and provide North with its “first true leadoff hitter in quite awhile,” Kirchner said, which moves four-year starter Jazmine Allen to center field.

Allen is hoping to play college softball and two of the other three senior outfielders with her — Lorrie LaTourette, Paige McClain and Sierra Sykes — already know they will be, LaTourette at Wabash Valley and McClain at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. Also college-bound is second baseman Jessica Will, who will be at Rose-Hulman.

Sykes is in the outfield after playing some first base last year because two underclassmen, junior Conner Nelson and sophomore Valerie Lewis, are also at first, and senior Katie Herrick returns at third.

Allison Crick, who won 12 games as a sophomore, will return to the circle to pitch to a new starting catcher, junior Mallory Nease. Other pitching possibilities are LaTourette, Lewis and senior Morgan Young, and senior Maddi Kelly is in the mix for playing time too.

“A lot of kids are going to help,” Kirchner predicted. “I think we’ll play good defense, maybe have a little bit of speed.

“It’s how hard the kids work,” he added, “but we’ve got a chance to be pretty good.”

• Terre Haute South — Among the Braves’ five seniors last year was four-year starting catcher Shelbie Scamihorn, now at Ball State, and four of this year’s 12th-graders are also moving toward the college ranks.

Shortstop Kelsey Marlow has signed with Western Illinois, center fielder Alexis Higgins is going to Indiana State, slugging first baseman Mackenzie McGregory will begin her college career at Wabash Valley and catcher Taylor Schilling — who played outfield most of the time last year — will be going to Rollins, Stout pointed out.

Other experienced hands for South include seven juniors — outfielder Carlee McFarland, second baseman Mariah Stout, third baseman Hollie Jones, pitchers Jackie Swain and Hanna Gossman, outfielder/second baseman Lauren Rowley and outfielder Brittany Dalton.

Sophomore Kaitlyn Woodward may pitch some for the Braves, but she’s the exception to the rule.

“We’ll be an older team this year — all upperclassmen on the varsity,” coach Stout said, “and I’ve told them I expect them to do well.”

The best thing about the Braves? “Experience,” their coach said. “There’s no stage too big for them.”

The Braves open the season at 5:30 p.m. today at Southmont, a game originally scheduled Saturday, then play Monday at Casey.

• West Vigo — The Vikings don’t figure to be intimidated this year either, said coach Cherish Easton, whose three graduation losses last year include current SMWC regular Ciara McClain and her cousin Jacy McClain.

Senior regulars back for West Vigo are pitcher/first baseman Hannah Harden, outfielder McKenzie Little and Brittany Voils, although Voils’ participation — and the position she plays — will be determined as she continues to recover from November knee surgery.

Younger starters back are junior infielder Charity Lane, junior center fielder Baylee Waters, sophomore shortstop Shelby Edington, sophomore outfielder Mary Curley and sophomore pitcher/first baseman Leah Morrison. Three more seniors — Lexus Elkins, who didn’t play last year, plus Kortney Brown and Mackenzie Roth — are in the mix for playing time, as is junior Kaitlyn Sollars, a transfer from South. Sophomore Tori Farris may find a place to play because of her speed.

“Eight of our losses last year were by two runs or less, four of them by one run,” Easton recalled. “Executing one play could have made the difference and we’d have come out on top in any of those games. This team is really determined to turn that around and execute when we need it.”

West Vigo lost 7-4 to Marshall on Wednesday and returns to action April 8 against Turkey Run.

 

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